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 Current issues

November 2011 

Reimagining Garden Cities


20th October 2011

‘Writeback’, The Editor

Town & Country Planning, TCPA

17 Carlton House Terrace



Dear Sir,


Imagining a Garden City


The Horsham Society has been trying to promote the concept of a new town locally for some years. As an amenity society we recognise a need for more housing in the area and the current limitations. Crawley is now almost as built-up as it can be. Horsham town cannot sustain much more addition to its area without destoying its character. Most of our villages are in the same position.


Crawley Borough Council, Horsham District Council and Mid Sussex District Council started to think about a new town on the A23 corridor but it has all gone quiet recently and, we understand, Mid Sussex now favours enlargement of its existing urban areas rather than a new town. We regret this as a new town in West Sussex would take the long-term pressure off many local towns and villages which will have trouble expanding sustainably.


Grant Shapps’s article in Town & Country Planning is welcome but we need to recognise changes that have occurred since Ebeneezer Howard’s time. Not least is that Welwyn Garden City is built on land obtained at agricultural values. That is a trick that only works once. Now land for a new town must be paid for at housing market prices so there goes the funding on infrastructure that Mr Shapps talks about unless landowners can be persuaded to be less greedy and councils less demanding. In this area almost all the land suitable for building is already in the hands of developers. Their stranglehold must be overcome before any community scheme can get underway.


The other problem is whether anyone today has the planning expertise to bring Howard’s vision to fruition? Most of those people who planned our last tranch of new towns in Britain have retired. Private developers may not have the overall vision of a grand plan for a new town which is needed to “re-imagine a garden city” (which might not be wholly compatible with their need to make short-term profits). Perhaps, however, a revived Garden City movement could attract the best and set imaginations free to design Garden Cities for the 21st century which people will still admire in the 22nd century.


It is doubtful if a New Homes Bonus will really help much and Mr Shapps’s surplus public land will not, necessarily, be in the right places for new towns. As an amenity society we welcome Mr Shapps’s enthusiasm but will this be enough?


Yours faithfully,



N C Friswell, Vice-President, The Horsham Society.


Read the Grant Shapps article»